This film rec will begin a series of documentaries on artists who live and work outside of the mainstream. Stay tuned for further recommendations in the unspecified future!
Anvil! The Story of Anvil plays out like a pretty decent rehash of This Is Spinal Tap. As with Rob Reiner’s opus, the film follows a minor metal band through a disastrous tour in a last-ditch attempt to rescue their careers. Familiar scenes of botched gigs, embarrassing logistics and internal strife have an awkwardly realistic sense of humor that seems to owe a great debt to the film that came before. Even one of the two main characters is named “Robb Reiner.” At some point into the film, however, it will become clear that Anvil is not a rehash, nor is it even a mockumentary. Everything in the film really happened.
Three reasons to watch:
- The humor: Anvil is a funny movie, and not just for a documentary. The filmmakers had a treasure trove of pathos and calamity to work with as they follow the tour, which makes up a large portion of the film. The adage that truth is stranger than fiction really gets put to the test here.
- The music: If you’re a metal fan, especially of that bygone era of perms and fishnet stockings, this should be required viewing. Vintage and modern performances are showcased throughout the movie, and Anvil really rocks. A few big names, such as Slash and Lemmy (RIP), even pop in to provide their thoughts on the early metal scene and their memories of the band that almost made it.
- The love: At its heart, the film is about love: love for music and love between people. Singer/guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner have stuck by each other through thin and thin for 30 years and clearly harbor few illusions that they’ll become rich rock gods at this point. But day jobs and family responsibilities just make their passion for metal burn all the more brightly. I’m sure that any artist who has struggled through crushing obscurity can relate.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you about:
- Seeing Spinal Tap first: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I really think that this film works best as a companion piece to its fictional predecessor. At a few points, it’s pretty uncanny. On the other hand, the film stands on its own just fine, and you really don’t need an extra reason to see Spinal Tap.